People in Witham Directories – 1793 to 1937

Directories – Introduction

From Directories

The main feature of this section is the very extensive table split across the pages AY, shown above and below. To find someone whose surname starts with S, click S, etc.

It takes the Witham entries from thirty Essex directories between 1793 and 1937 – they were issued every few years. For my table I merged the Witham people from all those volumes, producing 61,890 words. This means, for instance, that you can read off all the Smiths together, with their residence or business, in date order. To do this otherwise, you’d have to find and read all thirty volumes separately.

For many readers, the obvious question now will be “What’s a directory?”. They were often called Trade Directories because much of their content related to business. But I shall just call them directories. I shall include some illustrations here.

A photo of a very, very thick hardback book bound in red with writing just visible on the spine reading Kelly's Directory of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, 1937

The photo shows the outside of a typical directory. It is for the County of Essex in 1937. A large part of these county volumes was devoted to individual parishes like Witham, and the photocopies below show the Witham section for 1874. Tap one of them once or twice to see it larger. Studying that in detail will go a long way towards demonstrating what a directory is.

Notes for the tables

The Essex directories used were:
1793. 1823. 1826. 1839. 1845. 1848. 1855. 1859. 1862. 1863. 1866. 1870. 1874. 1878. 1882. 1886. 1890. 1895. 1899. 1902. 1906. 1908. 1910. 1912. 1914. 1917. 1922. 1929. 1933. 1937.

There was usually a Commercial and a Private Residents section in the original directories, as illustrated by the 1874 photocopy above. If a person came from the Commercial section, they will have a trade or business after their name in the table. The Private Residents would have a residence, or, occasionally a blank. A few prominent people were included in both sections.

Street numbering was not introduced in Witham until 1922. Even after that, some of the bigger houses just retained their names. Note that these street numbers bore no relationship to the numbers used in the census returns. Something to beware of even today.

High Street and Newland Street are the same street, High Street being a ‘nickname’. The directories seem to have used “High Street” practically all the time.

Brackets – sometimes I have used square brackets to enclose something I have inserted myself for clarity. For instance, when Queen Street appears, I put [Lockram Lane], its modern name, in square brackets afterwards [Queen Street was used for a time because it was more respectable, but it didn’t last]

Telephones did not arrive in Witham until 1904, and for many years only a very few people had their own, mostly businesses. So not many phone numbers appear in the directories (usually described as TN). There was one phone at the Post Office for public use. There were telephone directories, but for a long time they were brief.